Rocks return to begin build-up to Ryman campaign

Jake Thomson is on the Rocks' radar   Picture by Paul Jacobs PPP-140103-171725001
Jake Thomson is on the Rocks' radar Picture by Paul Jacobs PPP-140103-171725001

JAMIE HOWELL welcomed his players back for pre-season and told them: It’s all about being ready for August 9.

That’s when the Rocks kick off another Ryman premier campaign and Howell admitted it would come round quickly now the countdown to the season had begun.

The squad got together for the first time on Monday night and trained again last night as they embark on a programme of three sessions a week, with fitness the top priority in this early part of the schedule.

Howell reported a good turnout at the first night including one or two new faces and said it had been a good opening session with no dramas.

Former Southampton trainee Jake Thomson, a midfielder who has played for Salisbury and Portchester, has linked up with the Rocks with a view to a possible switch to Nyewood Lane.

And ex-Bournemouth apprentice right-winger Alex Parsons, more recently with Whitehawk and Worthing, is set to come to some training sessions at Bognor.

But left-back Matt Whitehead, who had been expected to join in with pre-season with thoughts of a second Nyewood Lane spell, is now going to try his luck elsewhere.

Striker Darren Wheeler – formerly of Godalming – and ex-Brighton midfielder Charlie Oatway jnr are others expected to link with the Rocks soon.

New goalkeeper Chris Winterton, who has signed a one-year deal, met his new team-mates at Monday’s first session.

The club are still looking around for other possible new recruits, but Howell is happy with the way the squad is taking shape.

One player not in full training yet is midfielder Harvey Whyte, whose ankle needs futher investigation after failing to heal following an injury towards the end of last season.

Howell said: “Training on the first night went okay. It’s pretty basic stuff to begin with, fitness-based, but we had a good turnout.

“There will be some new players coming in at different times in pre-season for us to have a look at them and in some cases for them to have a look at us.

“You’ll always get comings and goings during pre-season. Normally, some players you want won’t come while others you don’t expect to get will come.

“We’ll gradually build up and it will be good to start the friendlies in a couple of weeks, then it’s all about gearing up to August 9 and the first league game. That’s the only date that matters for me.”

The programme of friendlies will be a stiff test for Bognor, for it includes visits to the Lane by a Stoke XI (Tuesday, July 15), Pompey (Saturday, July 19) and a Reading XI (Tuesday, July 22).

Howell is content with the look of the squad so far and said one of their main aims was to assemble a group of players who were committed to Bognor.

“I think the most important thing is to fill your squad with people who want to play for the club. Anyone unsure whether they do will be better off not coming,” he said.

“Team spirit is paramount. We showed last year what we could achieve with the right group of players but without a big budget, and that’s our aim again.”